Hitchens

October 10, 2011  |  editorial

I’m not going to quit until I absolutely have to.

The prolific writer and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens made his first public appearance in months, as he’s been battling esophageal cancer, at the Texas Freethought Convention. Richard Dawkins awarded him with the Freethinker of the Year Award. Hitchens spoke and answered questions for about an hour with an emotional and humbled audience. The Houston Chronicle has a nice account of the evening. One of the questions came from eight-year-old Mason Crumpacker who asked what books she should read. Hitchens asked to see her after the talk, and he did indeed spend the final moments of the evening with her family as a crowd gathered, writing down a list of books for Mason.


Update: Mason’s wonderful thank you note:

Dear Mr. Hitchens,

Thank you for your kindness to me and all of the wonderful books you recommended to help me think for myself. Thank you also for taking my question very seriously. When I was talking to you I felt important because you treated me like a grown up. I feel very fortunate to have met you. I think more children should read books. I also think that all adults should be honest to children like you to me. For the rest of my life I will remember and cherish our meeting and will try to continue to ask questions.

Sincerely,
Mason

P.S. I would like to start with “The Myths” by Robert Graves.

More about the list of books and Mason’s story from Jerry Coyne.
Text of Richard Dawkin’s speech
Video 


29 Comments


  1. Absolutely tragic to see him like this. His endurance is definitely an inspiration.

    • Tragic? I couldn’t agree with you less. His mere presence is a fist shaken in the face of death. Death stalks but cannot terrify him, and I am so grateful that he has chosen to share his defiance with us. We can see way past his frailty now, and I feel a part of a new generation that has lost the fear of death; we can spit in its eye and proclaim that it has truly lost its sting. And who knows? In time, perhaps we can accept it for what it is, not as an enemy, but as a facilitator to help us make way for new life. I can only see courage and an undying spirit in this man Hitchens, for now I have claimed his fearlessness as my own, and surely it will live on in countless others who will lay claim to the same valiant spirit of this great man.

    • I mean this with all respect:

      If by tragic you meant ‘human’, then I can understand ‘the grammar of your comment’.

      Otherwise, your appreciation of reality needs fine-tuning and more…

      –angelo

  2. It isn’t tragic. It’s amazing! Hitchens will leave (if he leaves.. ) one of the most seminal and excellent bodies of work in human history. It’s brilliant that he was there. Brilliant. It sucks that he’s sick but he’s written more and thought more and changed more than most humans – even a group of humans – could hope to do. We are a fortunate generation to know this man. Celebrate his life! He is still with us. Every day he’s here, he leaves another gem.

  3. That last picture legitimately gave me the chills.

    :|

  4. Thanks for the nice shots. He definitely didn’t look his best there, but I do hope he’ll pull through. Hang in there, Hitch!

  5. I wish only the best for him. Hitchens is superb human being and he deserves every bit of acclaim that comes his way.

  6. Hope they publish that book list… That would be great.

  7. Super documentary shots which capture many emotions. Great stuff!
    I would have loved to have been there with my camera!

  8. Part of his book list, from the Houston Chronicle story:

    “Hitchens’ list of books and authors: Dawkins’ Magic of Reality, Greek and Roman myths, particularly those compiled by Robert Graves, anything satirical by Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations), PG Wodehouse (“for fun”), David Hume, and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.”

  9. You’re right, it is tragic. He is an inspiration to me as well, his loss would be a terrible one for the world to lose such a talent/mind/activist/journalist/writer. He’s done so much.

  10. Thanks Brett….. brilliant!!

  11. His books, articles and speeches certainly had a huge impact on my thinking and attitude towards a number of things. I cannot thank Hitchens enough for his courage to address very important topics.
    Yes, that list of books must be published !!

  12. Lovely photographs. Thank you very much for posting.

  13. Looks like the list is:
    Dawkins’ Magic of Reality, Greek and Roman myths, particularly those compiled by Robert Graves, anything satirical by Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations), PG Wodehouse (“for fun”), David Hume, and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

  14. If ever a moment can be captured that defines a turning point for a child, it’s last photo with that 8 year old girl. I’m not certain if she can appreciate it now, but that image is worth more than a billion first communion photos.

  15. Thanks for posting the pictures. What an extraordinary human being. Been studying his work since the 1980′s.

  16. Nice to see he is still with us and able to interact. His fortitude is inspiring, and I’m not giving up hope he might come through.

  17. Mr Hitchens finds new ways to inspire us. For every well-wisher there that night there are thousands across the globe hoping for the best for him. I wish there was some way I could send him my regards. I was a little shocked to see how he looked, but I can still see that twinkle in his eye. Come on Hitch!

  18. I’m not going to stop admiring the man until I absolutety have to!

  19. Although the Grim Reaper will knock at all of our doors at some point, I’m sure he’ll have nervous butterflies when Hitch’s name populates to the top of his list. I’m hoping that it’s a long time from now, but what I am sure of is that Christopher will have an flack-jacket argument for his reason to stick around a little longer. He’ll sway, and swoon, the hooded bastard into submission.

    Gloves up and swing away, my good man.

  20. I’ve only discovered Hitch in the last 18 months, please, please don’t go anywhere now Hitch, I haven’t had nearly enough!!

Trackbacks

  1. “I’m not going to quit until I absolutely have to.” Christopher Hitchens | The Atheist

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